There are not such singing birds in Australia, as there are here. Though there is a robin red-breast there, he does not sing as sweetly as he does here. But there are laughing birds in Australia. There is a bird called the “laughing jackass.” He laughs very loud three times a day. He begins in the morning;—suddenly a hoarse loud laugh is heard,—then another, then another,—till a whole troop of birds seem laughing all together, and go on laughing for a few minutes;—and then they are all quiet again. Such a noise must awaken many a sleeper on his bed. At noon the laugh is heard again. At evening there is another general fit of laughter. These birds are not like children, who laugh at no particular hour, but often twenty times a day. The laughing jackass is almost as useful as a clock, and it is called, “the bushman’s clock.”
This is a famous place, for here the English first settled, and here it was thieves were sent from England as a punishment. Some were sent there for fourteen years, and some for twenty-one years, and some for life. How did the place get the beautiful name of Botany? which means “the knowledge of flowers.” Because there were so many beautiful flowers seen there, when Captain Cook first beheld it. Yet the name Botany Bay, does not seem beautiful to us; for it reminds us not of roses, but of rogues; not of violets, but of violent men; not of lilies, but of villains.
This town is close to Botany Bay. It is the largest town in Australia. It is a very wicked city, because so many convicts have been sent there. Many of the people are the children of convicts, and have been brought up very ill by their parents. Of course there are many robberies in such a city, far more than there are in London. Who would like to live there! yet it is a fine city, and by the sea-side, with a harbor, where hundreds of ships might ride,—safe from the storm. It is plain, too, that Sydney is full of rich people, for the streets are thronged with carriages, driving rapidly along. The convicts often become rich, after their time of punishment is over, by keeping public-houses, and when rich they keep carriages.
If you were in Sydney, you would hardly think you were in a savage island; for you would see no savages in the streets. What is become of those who once lived in these parts? They are all dead, or gone to other parts of the island. The last black near Sydney, used to talk of the old times, and say, “When I was a pick-a-ninny, plenty of black fellow then. Only one left now, mitter.”
It is much better to live here than in Sydney, because convicts have never been sent here. Numbers of honest poor people are leaving England and Ireland, every year, to go to Adelaide. When they arrive at the coast, they get into cars, and are driven seven miles, passing by many pretty cottages, and gardens, till they arrive at Adelaide. There they find themselves in the midst of gardens; for the houses are not crowded together, as in our English towns, but are placed in the midst of trees, and flowers, and grass; because there is plenty of room in Australia.